Theses Doctoral

The Melting Plot: Interethnic Romance in Jewish American Fiction in the Early Twentieth Century

Kirzane, Jessica Kirzane

This dissertation argues that interethnic romance narratives reflect and express central religious, political, racial, and gendered identities and agendas of Jewish American literature and culture in the early twentieth century. Chapter One shows that fin-de-siècle Reform Jewish women authors employed interethnic romance narratives to express a belief in America as exceptional as a place of religious and gender egalitarianism. Chapter Two turns to journalist and fiction writer Abraham Cahan, who wrote interethnic romance narratives to weigh the balance between idealism and pragmatism, socialist universalist values and the principles of Jewish nationalism in determining the character of Jewishness in America. Chapter Three demonstrates that Jewish American women’s popular fictions of interethnic romance in the 1920s employed interethnic romance plots to show women’s independence and mobility in light of early feminism and to express the limitations of feminist discourse when it ran counter to their ethnic identities. Chapter Four describes how narratives of interethnic romance written by Yiddish writers I. I. Shvarts, Joseph Opatoshu, Isaac Raboy, and David Ignatov employ tropes of interethnic romance together with geographical border crossings into non-immigrant or non-Jewish spaces, co-locating physical dislocation and disorientation and intimate interpersonal desire and unease. Together, these studies demonstrate the significance of interethnic romance in the American Jewish collective imaginary in this period and reveal the flexibility and longevity of this central theme in American Jewish discourse.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Dauber, Jeremy A
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 22, 2017